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Above the Law, Beyond the Lawsuit?

By Neetal Parekh on November 04, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Call it a case of piercing the blogging veil.  A University of Miami law professor is suing the popular online legal tabloid, Above the Law, for false light, invasion of privacy, and copyright infringement.  But before you lock up your keyboards, toss out your cordless mice, and renounce online social media as a form of communication, it may be worth your blogging dime to take a look closer look at the lawsuit.

First, the allegations.  The flame of controversy was sparked by the arrest of Professor Donald Marvin Jones of U of M law school on suspicion of soliciting an undercover officer for prostitution.  He pleaded not guilty to the solicitation charge, which was then dropped, accompanied by an expungement of the matter from the Professor's record.  But the irony of a professor of criminal procedure and author of a book on race, gender, and criminal implications being detained for possible solicitation did not escape the purview of the editorial legal blog.  Through a series of posts, Above the Law, poked fun at the incident and the professor, including posting a suggestive photographic collage.  The collage post was accompanied with a disclaimer.

$22 million.  That is the hefty sum of damages sought by Professor Jones.  His lawsuit is directed at an Above the Law publisher and the blog's parent company.  He also wants posts concerning him to be taken off the website.

And, the problems.  The Wall Street Journal reports that false light claim put forth by Jones does not exist in Florida, the state of filing.  Additionally, for his claim for copyright infringement, the Journal reports on growing incredulity from the blogosphere, suggesting that the blog will be protected from non-intellectual property claims concerning the posted images.

Eyes, legal blogging and other, will be following this case to anticipate if it will affect what you and I say online.  Or, if it will just make for low-hanging fruit for upcoming blog smoothies. 

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